SpaceIL’s Beresheet Spacecraft Crashes on Moon

A graphic showing Beresheet’s path to the Moon. Dates correspond with Israel Standard Time. (Credits: SpaceIL)

The first privately funded moon landing crashed onto the lunar surface on Thursday.

SpaceIL’s Beresheet lander got about 10 km above the moon when it began experiencing a problem with its engine. Communications were lost and then controllers announced that the spacecraft had crashed.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try again,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who joined the SpaceIL team at the control center.

The $100 mission by the former Google Lunar X Prize team was largely unwritten by billionaire Morris Kahn with some funding assistance from the Israel Space Agency.

Israel was attempting to become the fourth nation to successfully land on the moon after the United States, Soviet Union and China.

Officials put a brave face on the failure, saying SpaceIL had been successful in placing the satellite into orbit around the moon before today’s unsuccessful landing attempt.

If the landing had succeeded, SpaceIL would have received a $1 million award XPRIZE Chairman Peter Diamandis. XPRIZE had run the Google Lunar X Prize, which was a $30 million competition to land a rover on the moon capable of traveling 500 meters across the surface.

Google canceled the competition in January 2018 after numerous extensions when it became clear that none of the remaining teams was close to winning the prize.